Umbria: The greatest attractions of the Franciscan region

If you like Tuscany you will surely love Umbria too. Although for years Umbria has been considered the more modest sister of Tuscany, things have changed. Today, this region is no longer in the shadow of its much more famous neighbor, becoming an extraordinarily appealing tourist destination. Intimate and charming, the so-called green heart of Italy was as if it were specially created for a complete holiday, thanks not only to the citadel’s coronet – each of them a true paradise for museums, art galleries and secret medieval clutches – but also due to the landscape Extremely varied, the excellent varieties of wine and culinary preparations not at all sophisticated but extremely tasty.

                                                              Franciscan Monastery Dominates the picturesque fields in Assisi- Umbria

 

History of Umbria

The first inhabitants of Umbria were “the umbrians”, a tribe of farmers who were assimilated by the Etruscans about the thirteenth century BC. Then the Romans came here, horses decided that through this region they would pass their main road, Via Flaminia, which led to the founding of a significant number of citadels. Of all, the most important was Spoleto, a city that would become, in the glory of the Lombards, the capital of their duchy in central Italy.

A series of powerful city-states emerged around the twelfth century. Of all, only Perugia, the capital of Umbria even today, has gained national recognition. Unfortunately, since the 16th century, when it came to the rule of the Papacy, it experienced a long period of stagnation, the effects of which could only be reversed in the last 20 years, when Umbria turned into an important tourist destination .

The birthplace of Saint Franciscus (1181 / 2-1226) and Benedict (480-550), Europe’s foremost saints and the founders of the most important monastic order of the Western world, Umbria has no resemblance. So many saints were born here that this region is often called Shadow Santa or Mystical Shadow – Holy or Mystical Umbria.

 

Attractions of Umbria

There are two major tourist destinations in Umbria: Orvieto, with its majestic cathedral, and Assisi, where the impressive Basilica di San Francesco is located. The architectural style of this basilica, which shelters the tomb of Saint Francis, originally from Assisi and protector of Italy, has had a great influence on Italian art and implicitly on European art as a whole. Giotto, Cimabue and all the other Italian artists of great size left their mark here, laying the foundations of a naturalistic artistic style, which was to move away from the Byzantine art bombastic conventions, culminating in the Renaissance glory.

But it would be a big mistake if, once you arrive in Umbria, you will only be limited to these two tourist attractions. One of the strengths of this region is the small distance between cities and villages, which means you can visit them very easily, even if it’s just a day trip. Perugia is the biggest of all and it’s worth a day’s worth. You can go to Spoleto, one of the most charming cities of central Italy, or one of the hills on the hills, such as Todi, Spelb or Montefalco. Assisi can be another place to stay, which, despite its popularity, becomes a very quiet city once day-tripers start on.

Even more isolated cities can be equally interesting; Among them Gubbio, an extremely interesting medieval gem, and Norcia, located in a wild mountain area, in the easternmost part of Umbria. This city is a true paradise for gourmets and a great base for those who want to visit the Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini (one of the main massifs of the Apennines) in the Marche region and the extraordinary Piano Grande, a superb plains covered with a carpet Flowers and surrounded by a mountain wall. In the western part of Umbria, the landscape is a bucolic, subtle and insinuating beauty, reminiscent of Tuscany’s dream landscapes.

 

Perugia

Once you get out of the countless and stunning suburbs surrounding the capital of Umbria, you will discover an amazingly beautiful old center, still preserving the traces of the passage of the Etruscans, the Romans and the medieval atmosphere. Not only Piazza IV Novembre, the main square of the city, is worth seeing, but also the surroundings, so take your comfortable footwear and start discovering as many of the wonders of Perugia on one day start your visit starting down Corso Vannucci, a street where only pedestrians are allowed to cross the medieval center of Perugia. In Piazza IV Novembre, at the northern end of this street, is Fontana Maggiore (1277), designed by Nicola and Govanni Pisano (father and son), two sculptors from Pisa known especially for Siena and Pisa amphibians. Behind it is the Dome (beginning in 1345), which houses the graves of two great popes who died in this city (Urban IV, which was poisoned, and Martin IV, dead due to indigestion caused Of his favorite food – screaming). Among the paintings here is Madonna delle Grazie (15th century, the third pillar of the southern ship), which is said to have miraculous powers, hence the countless votive donations. Here is also the Cappella del Sant’AnelIo (the first chapel of the northern ship), in which a hat was said to have embellished the wedding ring of the Virgin Mary.

                          Dinner on the terrace of the La Rosetta restaurant- Perugia

 

Priori Palace

In the corner of Piazza IV Novembre with the Corso Vannucci Street, one of the most extraordinary civic palaces in Italy, the Palazzo dei Priori (1293-1443), which hosts four renowned halls, stands. First, Sala dei Notari (closed Monday, except in July to September), the meeting place of the city’s jurists during the medieval period, boasts an impressive arched ceiling and the blazon of the medieval Perugia magistrates (podest). In the main hall enter the fan-shaped staircase of the palace.

                                            In the center of Perugia – Priori Palace

 

A little further down Corso, at no. 15, is the entrance to the Sala del Collegio della Mercanzia, the former meeting place of the city guilds. This 15th-century room is almost entirely decorated with extremely carved wood panels. Only a few steps away is the entrance to the Collegio del Cambio; which; In the past, was the meeting place of the Zarafs guild. The city’s favorite painter, Pietro Vannucci (1446-1523), best known as Perugino, decorated this room – the frescoes here (1496) are considered to be his masterpiece.

He retains for the end the resistance piece of this palace, the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, a huge painting exhibition on the fourth floor (access is through the main entrance). The collection here contains everything that has gathered more umbrian art over the centuries alongside impressive Tuscan works, such as the two paintings depicting “Virgo with Child and Saints” by Fra Angelico and Piero della Francesca (1437 And 1460 respectively.

Then head west on the scenic Via dei Priori. You will pass by a collection of towers and churches before reaching the Oratorio di San Bernardino, renowned for the carved and multicolored facade (1457) bearing the signature of Agostino di Duccio. Then to the north, to Piazza Fontebraccio, and enters through the Arco di Augusto (3rd century BC), an Etruscan-Roman gate, before heading north to Corso Garibaldi, the street leading to Churches Sant’Agostino and Sant’Angelo. In the western part of the market, the main attractions are an Etruscan defense wall (Piazza Danti) and the Church of San Severa, where there is a painting of Rafael. Both can easily be seen before venturing south, Corso Cavour, which takes you directly to San Domenico, the largest church in Perugia, famous for the Gothic tomb (beginning of the fourth century) by Benedict al XII (The altar). Also on the same street is the Archeology Museum, where are exhibited a series of Roman and Etruscan archeological objects discovered in Perugia, and the magnificent San Pietro church, which you must visit.

 

                                The oratory of Saint Bernardino in Perugia

 

Assisi

Assisi is known as the hometown of Saint Francis, the protector of Italy, the founder of the Franciscan Order and one of the most important religious figures of the medieval world. Its basilica, consisting of two twin churches and adorned with the works of the most famous painters of those times, is one of the most important religious sites in terms of art. At the same time, the city of Assisi itself is an attractive citadel, lined with churches, art galleries, flower streets and medieval buildings decorated with pink marble.

The main attraction in Assisi, the Basilica di San Francesco (starting in 1229), is on the western outskirts of the city, meaning you will be in the Piazza del Comune, which was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman forum.

                        Piazza del Comune, a beautiful square in the center of Assisi

 

The northern flank is dominated by the Tempio di Minerva (1st century), a highly preserved six-columned Roman temple. The Museo e Foro Romano is on the western flank of the market, which offers tourists the opportunity to visit the ruins of Roman buildings discovered below the market. To the west of the market is Pinacoteca, a painting gallery where a modest but gorgeous collection of medieval paintings and umbrian Renaissance paintings are exhibited.

Basilica di San Francesco a ajuns pe primele pagini ale ziarelor în 1997, când cutremurul din acel an a dus la prăbuşirea Bisericii Superioare, ucigând patru oameni şi distrugând o parte din superbele sale fresce. Pagubele artistice suferite de bazilică au fost puţin exage­rate, deoarece cele mai renumite fres­ce ale sale au supravieţuit Astfel, în Biserica Superioară, o încăpere gotică impresionantă, mai pot fi cunoscute şi astăzi inegalabilul ciclu de fresce al lui Giotto reprezentând „Viaţa Sfântului Francisc” (1290-1295), alături de lucrările mentorului lui Giotto, Cimabue. în Biserica Inferioară, care aduce foarte mult cu o criptă, pereţii sunt acoperiţi de alte fresce realizate de Giotto, de necunoscutul „Maestro di San Francesco” şi de cei mai de seamă artişti sienezi, Simone Martini şi Pietro Lorenzetti. în Biserica Inferioară se află şi mormântul Sfântului Francisc, unde se poate intra coborând pe o scară de piatră aflată la mijlocul navei.

                                                     The Assis’ Cathedral

 

This tomb was discovered in 1818, after two months of intense digging, because St. Francis had been buried secretly in order to steal his body (in the Middle Ages, the earthly remnants of the saints had an invaluable value). Francis died in 1226 and was canonized two years later. This basilica was raised with donations from all over Europe; Its structure is an example of Italian gothic art, and the Upper Church, with a single ship, would influence the construction of the Franciscan churches, and not only for many years.

As you leave the basilica, you should head south to San Pietro, a nineteenth-century Romanian-style church; From here you can go back to the Piazza del Comune, either on Via Ancaiani, an old picturesque street or on the busy Via San Francesco. If you choose to go back to the second street, do not forget the Oratorio dei Pellegrini (15th century) from no. 11, decorated with Umbrian frescoes dating back to the medieval period. Once you get back to Piazza del Comune, go a little to the east until you reach the Basilica di Santa Chiara, the place of burial of Saint Clara (Chiara), Francis’ comrade for repentance and poverty and the founder of the Claris Order. To the north is the Dome (started in 1140, even though the foundation was laid in 1029); The interior is annoying, but the one that impresses is the Romanesque façade. A little further to the north is Rocca Maggiore ($), the city’s castle (largely destroyed), whose green backyards offer a magnificent view of Assisi and its surroundings.

Do not forget to visit also the Eremo delle Carceri, a Franciscan monastery hidden some 2 km from the city center. The interior is absolutely fascinating, you will have the chance to see St. Francis’s cell, and the nearby forest with its network of paths takes you on a small walk. Less attractive, but equally important for pilgrims is Santa Maria degli Angeli, a church built in the place where Saint Francis died; Is located in the village of the same name in the plains of Assisi.

 

Orvieto

Orvieto has the most spectacular setting of all the cities of Umbria – on a plateau bordered by a steep cliff of volcanic origin. This area attracted the Etruscans who founded here one of their most important cities, but the true fame gained it only in 1263, the year of a true religious miracle that led to the construction of the famous cathedral which, moreover, Is also the main tourist attraction in Orvieto.

Try to approach the city with the picturesque funicular, which has its starting station in Orvieto Scalo, the modern plains town. Funicular will leave you directly in Piazzale Cahen; Once you have arrived here, you must visit the ruins of the medieval fortress, the public garden – situated on the site of a former Etruscan temple – and the extraordinary Pozzo di San Patrizio (Viale Sangallo), a huge fountain ordered by Pope Clement of Vlll in 1527 City with water in case of siege.

The 248 steps descend to the cold and dark fountains of the fountain. Starting from Piazzale Cahen, after ten minutes on Corso Cavour, you reach exactly the center of the old town. If you have come to Umbria, you must visit the Orvieto Dome, described by Pope Leon Xlll as “The Golden Lily of the Italian Cathedrals.” Her construction was inspired by the Miracle of Bolsena (1263), when it was said that blood was flowing from the host during the church service in the village of Bolsena, not far from Orvieto. This Gothic-Romanesque building is distinguished by the façade, which is the richest in decorations throughout Italy. The details are stunning, the most successful are the Sienese bas-reliefs flanking the doors on the ground floor, a masterpiece of the Italian sculpture of the 14th century.

Inside, the seeming sobriety of the cathedral is denied by the two chapels fully decorated with frescoes. On the left (north) is the Capella del Corporale, which is distinguished by the scarf (1358, richly ornamented) where the antimis (bodily) stained with blood was deposited when the miracle of Bolsena was made. The walls are covered with frescoes (1357-1364) made by the local painter Ugolino di Prete llario – they represent various scenes of the miracle (wall on the right) and various other scenes (the left wall). Capilla di San Brizio, or Capella Noua (Piazza del Duomo 26, phone 0763 342 477, closed Sunday morning and daily between 12:45 and 14:30, $$), is also decorated with a series of paintings and More important than the ones in the first chapel – a fresco cycle (1499 and 1504) with the “Last Judgment” of the Tuscan artist Luca Signorelli, one of Italy’s greatest works of art.

          The Dome of Orvieto – an architectural wonder of the Renaissance

 

        Inside the Orvieto House there are rare paintings of fantastic beauty

 

Opposite the cathedral there is the Claudio Faina e Civico Museum.

If you are in Orvieto, do not forget to give yourself a glimpse through the fascinating labyrinth of tunnels, underground galleries and caves dug in the volcanic stone below the city. Many of these tunnels date back to Etruscan times; Their more modern versions were used to produce the highly appreciated, sometimes Orvieto, sweet white wine, which can be bought from all the shops in the city. The Tourist Information Center organizes complete tours. Among the exhibits there is a series of Etruscan archaeological remains. Etruscan artifact lovers should also take the time to visit the Necropolis Etrusca-Crocefisso del Tufo, an extremely interesting collection of stone burial monuments located 1.6 km outside the city, on the SS71 road leading to Orvieto Scalo.

Other archeological vestiges are exposed to the less appealing Museum of Archeology, located behind the cathedral.

And if you’ve come to Orvieto, it would be a pity not to visit San Lorenzo Church on Via Ippolito Scalza, the more imposing Sânt’Andrea in Piazza della Repubblica and the Church of San Giovenale, hidden in the western extremity of the city. The latter contains a superb cycle of medieval frescoes that must be seen.

 

Todi

The town of Todi has been discovered by immigrants who, despite their large number, have failed to ruin the charm of this medieval city that offers everything: a dream setting, a history that dates back to the Etruscans, works of art and culture All of them, picturesque streets and a view of half of Umbria.

                                         Piazza del Popolo Square in Todi

 

Start your day at the café in Piazza del Popolo, often described as the finest medieval market of Italy. The pride of this market is the Dome (the northern end of the market), the construction of which began in the thirteenth century on the ruins of a temple dedicated to Apollo (in the past, the old Roman forum was in the place of the market). Remains of the old forum can be seen inside the crypt; In the church, the main attraction is the highly embroidered wood side (1521-1530). The other corners of the square are flanked by three palaces of the thirteenth century, of which the Palazzo Comunale houses the magnificent Museo della Citta, a modern space where a wide range of objects and a superb painting are displayed, representing the “Coronation of the Virgin Mary” (1511) Done by Lo Spagna.

The most interesting streets of Todi are in the north of the city and west of the cathedral. As you explore them, you will see that the city is surrounded by three separate walls – Etruscan, Roman and Medieval. In the southern part of the market there is the grandiose Gothic-Romanesque San Fortunato in the interior there is an incontestable masterpiece: a fresco (1432) in the fourth chapel (the southern ship) bearing the Tuscan painter’s signature Masolino da Panicale.

On the right side of the church is the public garden on the site of the former medieval castle. At the end of the alley – the Santa Maria della Consolazione (1508-1607), one of the most beautiful Renaissance churches of Italy.

                                                            Todi Town Hills

                                                                                                                                                         

 

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